National Partnership for Women & Families

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Sharyn Tejani, Senior Policy Counsel

From the desk of ... Sharyn Tejani

How Much is the Wage Gap Costing Your Family?

March 12, 2010 | Workplace Fairness

Eight months of groceries. That is what the wage gap is costing women and their families. Don't believe it? Do the math.

According to data just released from the Institute for Women's Policy Research, the weekly gap in earnings between men and women is $162 which translates into $8,424 per year. The USDA estimates that a family of four that spends "liberally" on its groceries spends $264.10 per week. Put those two together, and you have 32 weeks—eight months worth of groceries—that women and their families miss out on because of the gender wage gap. Of course, if you use the "thrifty" family weekly grocery bill ($133.40), the number of weeks of groceries is even higher: more than a year's worth.

What can be done? We can pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. It provides a comprehensive approach to stopping wage discrimination.

Among its many badly needed provisions, the Paycheck Fairness Act will give women information about pay discrimination. Right now, many employers forbid their workers from talking about their wages. This secrecy around wages works to the employer's advantage. If workers don't know how much the person sitting next to them is being paid, they can't uncover wage discrimination. But with the Paycheck Fairness Act in place, workers would be able to talk about their salaries and learn their coworkers' salaries without fearing employer retaliation.

In addition to giving us the tools to unearth wage discrimination, the Paycheck Fairness Act would modernize equal pay laws so that victims of gender wage discrimination are able to get the same types of damages that are available under civil rights statutes that protect against discrimination on the basis of race or national origin.

The House has already passed the Paycheck Fairness Act, and yesterday the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee held a hearing on equal pay that focused on the bill. We need a vote by the full Senate soon. So let your Senator know that you support the Paycheck Fairness Act—and then start making your grocery list.


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